Clinton widening lead over Democratic rivals

WASHINGTON – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has neutralized the political fallout from some of the most difficult moments of her eight years as first lady, with Democratic voters looking favorably on her failed effort to revamp health care and either supporting or having no opinion of her decision to remain loyal to an unfaithful husband, a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll shows.

The positive impression of Clinton’s White House years – which is shared, though more faintly, among the broader public – is helping propel her to a formidable lead over her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton leads the No. 2 contender, Sen. Barack Obama, of Illinois, 48 percent to 17 percent.

Her support has risen 15 percentage points since the last nationwide Times/Bloomberg poll in June, while Obama’s support has fallen 5 percentage points.

As a leading actor in her husband’s presidency, Clinton entered the race for the White House linked tightly to his legacy of personal scandal and political polarization. But today, the Times/Bloomberg poll found, nearly two-thirds of Democrats and nearly half of all voters say Hillary Clinton’s famously unsuccessful effort in the 1990s to provide health coverage for all Americans makes her better able now to deal with health care as president.

More than 7 in 10 Democrats, and about half of all voters, say they would welcome a White House advisory role for Bill Clinton if his wife became president.

And 42 percent of Democrats agreed it was the “right thing” for Hillary Clinton to stick with her husband after his affair with a White House intern, compared with 5 percent who said it was the wrong choice.

In the Republican presidential contest, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani is favored by 32 percent of GOP voters – more than twice that of his closest rival, former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, the poll found.

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